Behavior Health Unit Data Shows Continued Success in Diverting People in Crisis from Jails and Hospitals

Ofc. John O'Brien, PIO

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 10:34 a.m.

Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Co-Deployed team data for November 2020 shows continued success in diverting people in crisis from jails and hospitals.

Officers from the Spokane Police Department and Deputies from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Valley Police Department co-deploy with clinicians from Frontier Behavioral Health to assist individuals experiencing a “crisis” within our community. A “crisis contact” is described as a person who is experiencing increased emotion and decreased reasoning.

The Co-Deployed teams, also known as the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), saw increased calls to assist people in mental health crisis in November. The unit had 151 crisis contacts and relieved patrol of 245 calls, a saving of 152 hours for patrol. 75% of the contacts had an outcome other than jail or hospitalization.  22.5% were emergently detained, 57.4% of contacts resulted in a referral, and 8.1% were diverted from an arrestable offense or the hospital. Only .48% were arrested and there was zero use of force beyond handcuffing.

BHU contacts are generally multi-layered and require substantial time and effort by officers and clinicians as noted in the following incident:

Patrol responded to a bipolar male who was becoming very delusional, and threatening family members regularly.  He was starting to escalate in his threatening behavior and consumption of alcohol.  He would routinely get heavily intoxicated and flee the house before police arrive.  The BHU detained him early in the month due to his delusional state and increase in substance abuse.  He fled the emergency room because there were no secured rooms available.  He was subsequently detained again within 24 hours with similar concerns.  During a 14 day commitment he was very violent with others and threatened staff. During this time he turned voluntary and left the facility.

The male continued to escalate in his behavior, calling the Whitehouse and wanting to speak to President Trump, and stating he had bombs placed in California, Nevada, and New York.    As a result he was evaluated two more times.  Each time he would present himself very well with baseline behavior and put on a “show”, being very deceptive with evaluators. Throughout a week, the male would come and go from his residence heavily intoxicated, threatening his family and then leaving immediately.  This placed the community at great risk with him being on the roadways in such a condition.  Also during this time the male threatened to bomb a local business.  During an investigation it was determined probable cause to arrest existed.  The male was arrested for Threats to Bomb person/property and booked into jail.  At jail, he was evaluated a third time.  The BHU coordinated efforts between federal law enforcement agencies and local agencies to ensure the mental health experts had all the pertinent and historical information needed for the evaluation.  Once released from jail, he was transported to a local hospital where he was detained for further evaluation. 

BHU continues to work with all partners throughout the community and is unceasingly looking at ways to improve response and service.

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